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Dimension 20: A Starstruck Odyssey

Dimension 20 is known for creating practical miniatures, but for this season, we used a digital simulator called TaleSpire that mimics the miniatures in tabletop role playing games. Rather than making physical miniatures, we worked with 3D modelers and the developers of TaleSpire to create custom digital environments - much like levels on a video game.

This season was set in the world of ‘Starstruck,’ a sci-fi graphic novel series. I worked with the production designer, Rick Perry, to interpret the world of Starstruck and bring it to life in these digital models.    

I spent weeks combing through the source material to create a reference bible for the art department, so that we could honor the Starstruck artist Michael Kaluta’s unique imagery. 


From there, as the creative vision and narrative for our season developed, I acted as a creative liaison between Rick, our team of digital modelers, and the source material, to generate seven digital environments (and characters) for our players at the table to interact with.

Making 'The Wurst' 

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Final Design

The story of this season was 'six bozo criminals adventuring through sci fi outer space and getting into trouble.'

So, the first project was to design their ship! Our Production Designer, Rick Perry, had the idea to make their ship a de-commissioned mess hall ship that formerly belonged to the Amercadian Space Brigade (the military group featured in the graphic novel). 

We found an image in the original graphic novel of a flying hot dog, and the idea of the ship being in the shape of a giant hot dog was born!

Rick provided a side elevation, and I went in from there and made a model to help flesh out the interior, which our players could explore like a video game. 

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My model to figure out the interior overtop Rick Perry's elevation
Source Material Inspiration

Here are shots of the working model I made as a reference to flesh out the inside of the ship and make sure everything made sense: thinking about where stairs really lead to, hallways being wide enough for the players' avatars - even thinking about how one of the characters, a mermaid, would get around the ship! (We ended up giving her a tank in the ship's command room)

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We handed off these documents to modeler Hanan Ricketts, who modeled the ship to our specifications in TaleSpire:

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And our players could explore them live, by accessing TaleSpire on their laptops at the table:

Shot of the interior of the ship. Players could move their avatars (also created by our art department) to make choices and improvise their story, much like a video game.

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Concepting The 'Gladiator Arena' Set

I conceptualized this set, with the provided direction that it was to be a gladiator style fight that the bozos have gotten themselves into, and that they'd fight three bad guys. 

I had to think through many factors: How would the players enter? How does the audience enter? Where do the bad guys come in? How can we make the environment dangerous for the players?

I combed the source material to find anything that resembled an arena, and found these images:

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I thought the big goblet-shaped viewing platforms were interesting. They felt very Starstruck in terms of their physical impracticality and stylized shapes. They also would work well for the story of this fight, which was that the battle was sponsored by evil corporate overlords, so I thought this could be the ‘VIP’ seating for those overlords, and a motif to infuse throughout the design. 

This is the concept I came up with:

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To make it feel more futuristic, I had the stage impossibly held up by one of those goblet shapes, and a big jumbotron to display the scores held by another. (We prepared a ton of assets for that jumbotron, which we changed live on the spot based on the players’ choices)

I deliberately made the VIP seating obstruct the rest of the arena’s view to reinforce the power imbalance of the corporate sponsors.

Here is the model I made to finesse the layout. The idea was that the players would enter the central fighting area on one narrow bridge, and bad guys would enter on the opposite one.


Once the fight began, both bridges would retract - leaving the players stuck out there on a tiny landing pad with a big monster, and an infinite drop on all sides of them. 


We were initially  thinking about having more pieces of the stage drop off as the fight went on, to make that central playing area increasingly dangerous.

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Just as with the hot dog, these were handed off to our modeler, Hanan Ricketts, to build out in TaleSpire. 

Based on how the story unfolded at the table, we ended up rapidly pivoting to make the design feel more like a Las Vegas-style environment, so we retextured everything in white marble and gold.

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Final shots of the model as used during gameplay

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